Putin Has Already Changed the Global Order
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Vladimir Putin has initiated the remaking of the world order. This has been his pattern since his time as a KGB officer in Dresden, East Germany. In 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, Vladimir Putin requested military support from Moscow but obtained no answer. Of this, he said: “I got the feeling that the country no longer existed. That it had disappeared.” Now, Putin’s seeming goal is to return Russia to the Great Russia of the past. He does not want his country to become a second-rate nation.
A Larger Plan Likely at Work
Ukraine is part of the plan. Putin has been setting the stage for this global shake-up for some time, and he has been transparent about his ambitions. Just a few months ago, he sent a document to the U.S. and NATO demanding they and their allies remove troops from Eastern Europe and Central Asia and eliminate military exercises. This road map for Putin’s international relations policy backs up years of rhetoric and posturing.
Over the last 10 years, Russia has been hoarding sovereign currency and exerting leverage over European leaders using energy exports. It has executed political and influence campaigns across the West, which could include paying off politicians, financing fringe political campaigns, and helping push destabilizing events like Brexit.
Recent coups in Mali and Burkina Faso seem to bear some Russian fingerprints. Russia most likely helped to kick France out of west Africa and managed to become the main player in half of the countries throughout the continent.
Putin also cemented key relationships in the Middle East and South America. He’s met recently personally with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Iran, and Israel, among others. It’s notable that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Israel — long-term classical allies of the U.S. — have de facto sided with Russia. The White House is very concerned that the UAE and Saudi Arabia declined to take President Joe Biden’s call to discuss oil supplies in response to Russia’s invasion while they had both spoken earlier to Vladimir Putin.
The importance of Putin’s geopolitical moves cannot be understated. Yes, Russia is isolated in the West, but the two major demographic powers in the world — China and India — are both on Moscow’s side in the Ukraine war. China and India rarely see eye to eye on international issues, but they agree on this. Same with Pakistan. That said, unexpected setbacks have stymied Putin’s years-in-the-making plan to restore Russian glory.
In deciding to strike, Putin may have overestimated the abilities of his military and the strength of his political position, but he saw a major window of opportunity on the global scene. He seems to have considered Russia’s measure of energy hegemony over Germany — with its new, novice leadership and fractured government — as an asset. He probably felt that the U.S. elected a weak president and vice president in Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. At the time, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was recovering from Brexit and steeped in scandals, and French president Emmanuel Macron was facing reelection, all of which would insulate Putin from serious reproach. Putin also signed a document of alliance with China that was quite meaningful. Furthermore, Russia’s foreign reserves were up tremendously last year, the national debt had been reduced, and the price of energy pre-invasion was already way higher than what Russia needed to balance its budget.
What Putin didn’t expect was the resistance of Ukraine, nor the speed and extent of the international sanctions. He encountered a major surprise in Germany’s massive change in defense policy and foreign policy with an investment of 100 billion euros and an annual commitment of 2% of its budget into defense. Some of the corrupt politicians from whom he likely expected cover have instead turned their backs, except former German Chancellor Schroeder. And the massive desertion of foreign corporations from Russia was quite shocking.
Putin Is Not Likely to Stop
Despite these setbacks, it’s unlikely that anything will change regarding Putin’s strategy and obsession with rebuilding Russia into a great power. He needs to be stopped by force. It’s the only way to keep some peace in Europe and mitigate the tumultuous future for global cooperation. Don’t expect a coup or a revolution in Russia; don’t expect him to be removed from power.
But Russia’s poor start in Ukraine will have some consequences. It’s likely that Russia will ramp up mad violence against civilians by also using its main private military company, the Wagner Group, which is hiring Syrian mercenaries. China and Russia are accusing the U.S. of running biolabs in Ukraine, which could be a false flag operation similar to what has happened in Syria. After a chemical attack carried out by Assad and his regime, the Russians accused the Americans and the British of being behind it.
Putin’s plan likely does not include war with NATO, which wouldn’t benefit him; however, the Russian leader does want to conquer Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, which are probably going to be invaded once Ukraine is occupied. He wants to prevent at all costs Russia being diminished even further among world powers.
It’s not clear his ambition to restore Russia will come to fruition, but the Pandora’s box he has opened is guaranteed to change the world order. Fossil fuel markets are set to change. Clean energy will become a massive priority. Turkey will become even more a major player in energy with its crucial pipelines. China will pose more than an economic threat.
Imagine what happens when we have the same scenario with China annexing Taiwan, or moving into other neighboring countries. It’s not by chance that the Pentagon has worked on war games with China for a good decade. The likelihood of a U.S.-China war has only increased.
Russia seems to have triggered a chain reaction for would-be empires like itself and China. The rest of the world is watching carefully how the West tries to counter Putin in Ukraine.
About Olivier Guitta
Olivier Guitta since 2015 has been the Managing Director of GlobalStrat, a geopolitical risk and security consultancy firm looking at global trends and events. Previously, Olivier worked at two foreign affairs think tanks in both Washington and London. Earlier, Olivier spent 12 years working as a Portfolio Manager for two financial firms in the USA. Olivier regularly briefs chief security officers at the largest companies in the world, and his clients include sovereign wealth funds, private equity firms, hedge funds and asset managers, multinationals, prestigious law firms, and governments in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. He is ranked in the top 250 terrorism experts in the world, top 500 in national security, top 500 for Maghreb, and top 750 Gulf experts. Olivier is regularly featured on the BBC, Sky News, CNN, NBC, and CNBC. His writings on international affairs and security issues have been published in The Times, Le Monde, Forbes, and several other prestigious outlets. Olivier is also very often cited in numerous other outlets, including Reuters, AP, AFP, Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times.
This geopolitical article is adapted from the GLG teleconference “An Analysis of Russian Foreign Policy.” If you would like to speak with geopolitical experts like Olivier Guitta, or any of our approximately 1 million Network Members, please contact us.
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